Quickly, think of the greatest pitchers in Red Sox history.
There are plenty more. The list is impressive. Names [mostly] worthy of Cooperstown.
Make sure you don't forget Jon Lester.
Not after what Lester has done in this World Series.
He is your resident ace. He may not be Mr. Personality, but he's been Mr. October when it matters.
When it's time to tell your grandchildren about these 2013 Boston Strong Globe Sox, you're going to talk about Lester's 15.1 innings of one-run baseball that combined to stuff the Cardinals in Game 1 at Fenway Park, and more importantly, Monday night in Game 5 at St. Louis with the series tied at 2-2.
27 outs to go.
Just one, baby.
The Red Sox have not won a World Series at Fenway Park since 1918. You can only imagine what that was like, especially since the World Series wasn't broadcast on radio for another three years or on TV until 1947.
Thanks mainly to Lester and David Ortiz, along with Monday night's 3-1 victory, the Red Sox have a chance to win their first championship in Boston in 95 years Wednesday night. That game will be broadcast on radio, TV, social media and anywhere in the universe with an internet connection.
After Game 1, "Goop Ball Gate" raged thanks to some clown in the Cardinals' minor league system, conspiracy theorists and the tin-foil-hat brigade.
There were no "goop" balls Monday night. And there was nothing suspicious in Lester's glove Monday night except when it came to the baseball, which was mysteriously avoiding the Cardinals' bats all night.
Blame it on "Spy Gate."
Now go home and get your [expletive] shinebox, haters.
Lester even helped himself out with a nifty under-handed loss on Pete Kozma's bunt.
He was never flustered and never flinched, not even when the world's most-intelligently aerodynamically designed paper airplane floated down to the mound.
Thanks to a huge helping mitt from his personal catcher David Ross [above] , Lester delivered a command performance worthy of the stage he held Monday night.
The postgame panic centered around what looked like a lower back strain, but there was no indication Lester would not be ready just in case he would be needed for all-hands-on-deck-duty in a Game 7 Thursday.
My money says his next appearance is at Saturday's Duck Boat parade.
Lester became the first lefty since Ruth to win three World Series games while pitching for the Red Sox. He held the Cardinals to one run over 7.2 innings and just four hits, striking out seven and walking none.
A true Ruthian effort.
Call it the "Blessing of the Bambino."
Lester threw 5.2 scoreless innings in the final game of the 2007 World Series just a year after undergoing treatment for Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Overall, Lester [3-0, .043 ERA] has pitched 21 innings in his three World Series starts, striking out 18 while walking only four. His Fall Classic scoreless streak was stopped after 16.2 innings with Matt Holliday's home run.
In the litany of post-curse championships, Lester's performance this postseason [4-1, 1.56 ERA, 33 strikeouts, giving up two earned runs or fewer each time] ranks with Derek Lowe's 2004 or Josh Beckett's 2007. His only loss was 1-0 in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers.
He's become Clemens without the bluster, Schilling sans the bloody sock and Pedro without the panache. Among Red Sox starters all-time in the postseason, Lester, Schilling and Martinez are tied with six wins apeice, but his 2.11 ERA is more than a full point lower than anyone else's.
In a year of redemption and reclamation, Lester's story has been dwarfed by that of John Lackey and that of the franchise in general. Lackey starts Game 6 Wednesday, with Fenway Park and Boston and whatever constitutes Red Sox Nation primed for an outburst of unbridled ecstasy and glee with just one more victory.
Lester was caught in the backwash of "chicken and beer gate" and labored throughout a disastrous 2012 season under the malfeasance of Bobby Valentine. Lester's lowpoint with the Red Sox most likely came in a 15-7 drubbing at the hands of the Blue Jays on July 22, 2012. Lester gave up four home runs and 11 runs in just four innings.
On the day John Farrell was announced as Red Sox manager this past offseason, he spoke of how he noticed issues with Lester's delivery while he was managing Toronto. Valentine would have not even noticed if Lester was throwing right-handed or wearing a Yankees uniform. Farrell had been the only pitching coach Lester ever had in the majors before he left to manage Toronto after the 2010 season. The effect of having Farrell back in the improvement of Lester this season cannot be underestimated.
All throughout the Improbable Dream season the Red Sox have enjoyed these past six months, the looming question of whether or not this team had a bonafide No. 1 starter and or ace on its staff has raged across talk radio, the sports pages, interwebs, TV and social media.
The question has been answered with an unequivocal "YES" until further notice.
"Unbelievable, he always come through," Ortiz said. "He's our ace."
Ruth, Bruce Hurst and Lester were the only three lefties to ever start Game 1 of the World Series for the Red Sox. The three combined for 24 scoreless innings in their World Series opening performances. There was no World Series MVP when Ruth threw 14 consecutive scoreless innings against the Cubs, including a complete-game victory in Game 1. If there was such an award back then, he would have gotten it thanks to two victories and his two-run triple in Game 4 that took all of 110 minutes to complete.
Hurst was "The Miller Lite MVP" of the 1986 World Series for a flash on our TV screens moments before Gary Carter got things started for the Mets with two out and nobody on in the bottom of the 10th in Game 6.
Lester would be a lock for MVP of this series, presuming the Red Sox win a championship, if Ortiz wasn't batting 18,345,334 [actually .733, 11 for 15] against the Cardinals while hitting everything thrown in his direction. The Red Sox have struck out a Napoli-ean 156 times this postseason and are batting .205 in the World Series with just 18 hits.
And yet, Boston is one victory from its third World Championship in the past 10 seasons.
Great starting pitching, a reliable closer and a big helping of
Big Papi Cooperstown.
Works in October every time.
On the flip side, Stephen Drew remains on pace to end the 2013 World Series with a negative batting average. He drew a Kevin Millar-throwback walk to help the Red Sox set-up a two-run eighth thanks to an RBI ground-rule double by Ross and single by Jacoby Ellsbury and leaped higher than Rondo hearing he was traded to the Nets in stabbing a line drive by Yadier Molina in the fourth.
"He doesn't take any pitches off," Ross said of Lester. "He throws the first pitch as hard as the last."
That's Lester's persona. His success has come quietly and without any fanfare. Even when he shut down the Rockies six years ago in Game 4, he was overshadowed by the antics of Jonathan Papelbon and the sheer dominance of Beckett [yes, that Josh Beckett] and Schilling in that offseason.
This year, Lester took a mini-break after the All-Star break in missing one start between July 13 and 23, but still had to defend himself and went out of his way to declare that he wasn't injured at that time.
During Monday's game, former Red Sox player Gabe Kapler Tweeted that Lester was in a "zen mode" and predicted early on that Lester's ball was "so heavy, and his cutter bites so much that he doesn't need to be fine. He can live off the corners, on the plate and succeed."
All night, Lester chewed up the corners. His cutter worked the front door and back door. Throughout the game, Lester never flinched, even after his mistake to Holliday landed in the center field stands. He kept the Cardinals from piecing together any real offensive threat by throwing strikes and limiting his pitch count to just 91 before he gave way to Koji Uehara with two out in the eighth.
"You don't know when he's mad and when he's happy." Ortiz said after the game. "In 2007, he told me he was going to be the ace of this organization and here he is."
Lester was happy on Monday.
And we know for sure that he's the ace of this organization.
Without a doubt.
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